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Mediterranean crisis: harrowing stories show need to do more for children

Migrants disembark in Sicily from HMS Bulwark
Migrants disembark in Sicily from HMS Bulwark, the Royal Navy vessel conducting search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean

I’m just back from Sicily where I’ve been hearing the harrowing stories of children and families who’ve survived the perilous trip from Libya across the Mediterranean Sea.

Every day, thousands are fleeing persecution, war and poverty in their homeland, in search of a better life in Europe.

A series of tragedies earlier this year highlighted the huge risks they’re taking, and put the spotlight on the EU’s heartless decision to stop search and rescue operations.

But even though search and rescue operations have resumed, I’ve been discovering that the ordeal doesn’t end when people reach dry land.

Trafficking and tragedy

This week I meet some young Eritreans who told me how they fled persecution, only to be kidnapped and sold to traffickers.

One young man was held in the Sinai desert in Egypt for 11 months and tortured to extract more money from his family – the traffickers would phone so his mum could hear him screaming.

Another family from Nigeria fled war and travelled across the desert to Libya. The dad was imprisoned by militias and while he was in prison, and with his wife in hiding, his nine-month-old baby died.

He told me of his fear as they were locked in a warehouse for days without food and water, before being pushed on to a boat out to sea. I asked him what he wanted and he said to keep his one and two-year old children safe.

Once at sea he, his young daughters and wife were rescued by the Royal Navy’s HMS Bulwark.


The work of the crew of the Bulwark is simply incredible. Earlier this month they rescued 1,200 people in one day alone. It makes me proud that Britain and our navy are saving lives.

Now we’re asking you to thank the crew for their life-saving efforts. You can do it here in just two minutes.

Please leave a message on behalf of you and your family, and encourage your friends and family to take the action too. We will pass your messages on to the crew.

Time to share the burden

But we also need to make sure that refugees are looked after when they reach Europe.

In recent days I’ve seen the vital work being done by Save the Children-supported child reception centres in Sicily. But Italy’s resources have been overwhelmed by the influx – the rest of Europe needs to help share the burden.

This is why we’re calling the UK to now help some very vulnerable children and give 1,500 children who made the journey across the sea on their own, protection and help in Britain.

Sometimes the debate about immigration can get divisive, but we don’t see anything controversial about saving children’s lives, and keeping them safe once they get to Europe.

They’re simple ideas, but we believe they should remain at the heart of this discussion.

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